Are you excited to travel to Saudi Arabia? Whether you are just a tourist or going for Hajj & Umrah this is your complete guide for staying connected when traveling to Saudi Arabia. Looking to buy a local prepaid sim card in Saudi Arabia on arrival or do you go for an e-sim card? Find it all in this guide showing you the best prepaid sim cards and e-sim cards for Saudi Arabia, up to date prices as per August 2023, the best 4G/5G network in Saudi Arabia, where to buy a sim card, info about international sim cards for Saudi Arabia and even a vlog with all my experience getting connected on my trip to Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia opened up its borders to tourists only in 2018 and ever since I was dying to go. It became country no. 119 on my journey to visit every country in the world and I have now visited already 3 times. As a full time nomadic travel blogger since 2012 I constantly change countries and everywhere I go I immediately look for the best way to get connected. Therefore on Traveltomtom you can already find more than 200 sim card guides from all over the world: Bahrain, Dubai, Malaysia, Jordan, Pakistan, Hong Kong, Egypt, Europe, USA, Asia, Bangkok, Bali, Brazil, New York, London, Paris, Istanbul and many more.
So next time you are planning your trip abroad come check out Traveltomtom for the latest prepaid sim card and e-sim card advice for your destination. Bookmark me!
Why buying a sim card for Saudi Arabia
Most important reason is to save money on high roaming charges. Overseas data plans are expensive and they limit your internet speed. Buying a sim card in Saudi Arabia or getting an e-sim card for Saudi Arabia is easy, takes just a couple minutes and gives you a lot of data for a much cheaper price.
Traveling with an active data connection on your phone is just so much more convenient. Think about ordering a taxi through an app like Uber or Careem, getting directions from Google Maps, sending WhatsApp locations, staying in touch with the people back home, dealing with emergencies, etc.
Also keep in mind that public WiFi is not guaranteed everywhere plus these are UNSECURED networks. When using public WiFi the use of a VPN is recommended.
Be aware that for making a Saudi Arabia sim card work on your phone, it needs to be unlocked! If your phone is locked you will need to unlock it before traveling to Saudi Arabia. Contact your home provider if you are not sure. In general phones from the USA tend to be locked, phones from the rest of the world are mostly unlocked. This is also counts for using an international sim card or an e-sim card.
If your phone is locked or swapping sim cards is not preferred than have a look into a so called pocket WiFi. It is not my favorite way of staying connected but it works. Check out my article comparing a local prepaid sim card vs. a portable WiFi device.
Traveltomtom recommends an STC sim card for Saudi Arabia. The have the most extensive 4G/5G network in Saudi Arabia and actually also the best prepaid sim card deals for tourists in 2023.
That said, when you only need a little bit of data or you want to arrange everything right now within a couple minutes then get an e-sim card for Saudi Arabia. Prices start already from just $5 USD. More info below.
Another great option is an international travel sim card with data. Check out my comparison of the best international sim cards for traveling in 2023 and you will see some great options for traveling in Saudi Arabia. You can order these travel sim cards directly online and they will be shipped to your home address before your trip.
However, the easiest way to stay connected when traveling abroad in 2023 is an e-sim card.
Best e-sim cards for Saudi Arabia
The easiest way to get connected when traveling to Saudi Arabia in 2023 is an e-sim card. Why? You arrange everything online within just a couple clicks. No more visiting a store or swapping a physical sim card.
- 1 GB data for 7 days = $5 USD
- 2 GB data for 15 days = $8 USD
- 3 GB data for 30 days = $11 USD
- 5 GB data for 30 days = $15.5 USD
- 10 GB data for 30 days = $26 USD
Click here to directly order an e-sim cards for Saudi Arabia online.
The above e-sim cards from Red Sand are data-only and valid in Saudi only. They operate on the 4G/LTE/5G network of Zain. Yes, these e-sim cards for Saudi Arabia support 5G.
You can also order an international e-sim card for Saudi Arabia. This e-sim card is valid in more than 120 countries and includes Saudi Arabia, but is also much more expensive:
- 6 GB data for 15 days = $39.90 USD
Click here to order this international e-sim card for Saudi Arabia.
With an e-sim card you keep your own phone number, but make sure your phone is e-sim card ready, all newer smartphones are, but older phones might not be compatible.
Where to buy a sim card for Saudi Arabia
International Airport on arrival
The best place to buy a prepaid sim card in Saudi Arabia is at the international airport on arrival. All international airports in Saudi Arabia have excellent facilities for buying prepaid sim cards for tourists. I have been to Medina, Riyadh and Jeddah Airport and wrote a separate guides and recorded a vlog for every airport.
Click here for an extensive guide and vlog for:
- Buying a sim card at Jeddah Airport
- Buying a sim card at Riyadh Airport
- Buying a sim card at Medina Airport
Phone stores city center
The phone stores at the above airports are open 24 hours but if for some reason you may have missed the chance to get a Saudi Arabia sim card on arrival we recommend you to head to one of the bigger shopping malls and buy your Saudi Arabia sim card there. There are 3 mobile internet operators and they have stores all around the big cities. The best way to located the nearest to your hotel is to search for them on Google Maps.
Buying a prepaid Saudi Arabia sim card in a random phone store is not recommended because of the official registration process and if something goes wrong they will send you to an official retail store of one of the main mobile internet providers.
Order a sim card for Saudi Arabia online
If buying a prepaid sim card in Saudi Arabia on arrival seem like too much hassle you can also order a sim card directly from your couch. Besides e-sim cards there are also physical sim cards for Saudi Arabia. You order these international travel sim cards online and they will be shipped to your home address.
See the following international sim card deals for Saudi Arabia:
- True Move = 6 GB data for 15 days —> $39.90 USD
- Orange = 10 GB data for 14 days —> $49.90 USD
The above international sim cards will be send to your home address and work like plug and play, meaning they are automatically activated from their first time they connect to a network in Saudi Arabia. Just put the sim card in your phone and you will be connected instantly as soon as the plane lands.
Mobile internet providers Saudi Arabia
There are 3 mobile internet operators in Saudi Arabia: Zain, Mobily and STC (Saudi Telecom Company). On top of that there is also Virgin Mobile, a so called MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) that sells prepaid sim cards for tourists in Saudi Arabia.
The registration process is pretty standard. Your new Saudi Arabia sim card will be registered under your name and passport number. Always bring your passport when buying a new sim card in Saudi Arabia, they will take a copy of your passport in the store. Also you will have to give your fingerprint for registration.
If you feel like the registration process with your fingerprint and your passport is too much then an international sim card for Saudi Arabia or an e-sim card for Saudi Arabia is the perfect solution.
Prices prepaid sim cards in Saudi Arabia in 2023
In a lot of countries the prices for sim cards at airports are more expensive than in a normal phone store in the city center or around the country. But not in Saudia Arabia, where prices for prepaid sim cards at the international airports are more or less the same as in any phone store around the country.
All prepaid sim cards in Saudi Arabia are 5G ready and offer max data speed without any limitations unless stated.
All info and prices below are updated in August 2023: $1 USD = 3.75 SAR and 1 SAR = $0.27 USD.
All the Mobily prepaid sim card deals below are valid for 4 weeks
- 5 GB data + 5 GB social media + 600 minutes = 75 SAR - $20 USD
- 10 GB data + 15 GB Social Media + 1,500 minutes = 110 SAR
- 20 GB data + unlimited Social Media + 3,000 minutes = 150 SAR
- 50 GB data + unlimited Social Media + calls = 180 SAR - $48 USD
- 100 GB data + unlimited Social Media + calls = 220 SAR
- Unlimited data + calls = 360 SAR
Mobily also offers a daily unlimited data plan + 50 minutes for 20 SAR - $5.3 USD per day.
With Mobily it is possible to get an e-sim card for Saudi Arabia at no extra costs in one of their stores, you can't order online. For more info check the Mobily website.
- 3 GB data + 1 GB Snapchat, WhatsApp & Facebook + 50 minutes valid for 2 weeks = 34.5 SAR
- 15 GB data valid for 2 weeks = 57.5 SAR
- 10 GB data + 5 GB Snapchat, WhatsApp & Facebook + 150 minutes valid for 4 weeks = 80.5 SAR - 21.45 USD
- 25 GB data + unlimited Snapchat, WhatsApp & Facebook + 350 minutes valid for 4 weeks = 149.5 SAR
Zain also offers an e-sim card for its prepaid costumers. For more info check the Zain website.
The STC prepaid sim card plans are nationwide the exact same. Every airport, mall, random phone store you are able to buy one of the following STC prepaid sim card plans and data packages:
- 1 GB data + 1 GB Social Media + 60 minutes = 40.25 SAR
- 4 GB data + 4 GB Social Media + 120 minutes = 74.75 SAR - $19.9 USD
- 10 GB data + 10 GB Social Media + 500 minutes = 86.25 SAR
- 10 GB data + 15 GB Social Media + 300 minutes = 115 SAR
- 25 GB data + 25 GB Social Media + 500 minutes = 132.25 SAR - $35.2 USD
- 70 GB data + unlimited Social Media + 800 minutes = 195.5 SAR
- 100 GB data + unlimited Social Media + unlimited calls = 276 SAR
STC Saudi Arabia does not offer an e-sim card for their prepaid costumers yet. For more info check the STC website.
You won't find Virgin Mobile in international airports, only in the bigger shopping malls in Riyadh or Jeddah. They operate on the network of STC and they offer the following prepaid sim cards:
- 51.75 SAR = 2 GB data + 2 GB social media + 100 minutes - $14
- 80.50 SAR = 20 GB data + 500 minutes - $21
- 115 SAR = 25 GB data + 25 GB social media + 1,500 minutes - $31
- 172.50 = 40 GB + unlimited social media + 3,000 minutes - $46
- 247.25 = 100 GB + unlimited social media + 5,000 minutes - $66
For more information check the Virgin Mobile Saudi Arabia website.
Best 4G/5G network in Saudi Arabia in 2023
Yes, there is 5G in Saudi Arabia and it is wide spread, especially around the best places to visit in Saudi Arabia like Mecca, Medina, Riyadh, Jeddah, Alula. Basically all major tourist destinations in Saudi are covered with a 5G signal and from my own experience I can tell you mobile data speed in Saudi is FAST.
Let’s have a look at the 4G/5G network coverage maps from Saudi Arabia and compare the 4G/5G networks of the mobile internet operators in Saudi Arabia.
Zain 4G/5G network coverage map
Mobily 4G/5G network coverage map
STC 4G/5G network coverage map
It is no secret that for traveling around Saudi Arabia, especially those who are discovering the country by car, an STC sim card is the recommend tourist sim card. STC has by far the best 4G/5G network in Saudi Arabia in 2023. However if you just stick to the cities, all three providers offer 5G in Riyadh, Medina, Jeddah and Mecca.
Best prepaid sim card for Saudi Arabia in 2023
Prices for prepaid sim card plans in Saudi Arabia start from $9.2 USD and that is a Zain prepaid sim card deal with 3 GB data. That makes and e-sim card for Saudi Arabia the cheapest way to stay connected in 2023, because the e-sim card plans start from $5 USD and you get 1 GB data.
But if you compare an e-sim card for Saudi Arabia with 10 GB to a local prepaid sim card then we come to the conclusion that a local prepaid sim card is cheaper. So for those that use a lot of data while traveling to Saudi it is recommended to buy a sim card in Saudi Arabia.
A data-only e-sim card with 10 GB data cost $26 USD, very easy to order directly from your couch right now. But a local prepaid sim card of STC (the best prepaid sim card deal in Saudi Arabia in 2023 cost $23 USD and gives you 10 GB data + 10 GB social media + 500 minutes. However, this prepaid sim card deal you can only get on arrival in Saudi Arabia.
After comparing the prices for prepaid sim cards and the 4G/5G network coverage it is an easy conclusion that STC is the best prepaid sim card in Saudi Arabia in 2023.
Here is my vlog about my experiences buying a sim card in Saudi Arabia.
A last reminder that you can also order a physical sim card for Saudi Arabia online or to make it even easier you order an e-sim card for Saudi Arabia and arrange everything online in less than 5 minutes.
I hope the above tips and tricks for staying connected when traveling to Saudi Arabia were helpful for your upcoming trip. If you still have questions then please let me know in the comments below.
Want to be fuelled by wanderlust then check out my Instagram account @traveltomtom and follow my road to visit every country in the world. On my YouTube channel you will also find a video about how to travel by high speed train from Jeddah to Medina. As of August 2023 I have visited more than 155 countries so many more to come.
Enjoy your trip to Saudi Arabia!
Some links in this article about the best ways to stay connected when traveling to Saudi Arabia are affiliate links. If you buy any of the products after using an affiliate link I earn a small commission. This is at absolutely no extra cost to you of course!